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North Korea: Bringing the nuclear issue to the 21st century

North Korean Army

The North Korean Army

As North Korea taking strides to become a major nuclear power in the world, and Iran grows in threat towards Israel, could China be the diplomatic force to broker stability in these regions? George Vassilev reports. 

So the talks between North Korea and USA finished on the 30th of July. Both countries agreed that it was constructive, and ‘business-like’. But looking beyond this, one wonders whether the most important issue of the human race is really being taken seriously. One thing that is critical to this is the understanding of the role of a nuclear warhead.

Let’s get it straight immediately. North Korea wants to be a nuclear power (technically it already is, don’t forget). This is not insulting, and it shouldn’t be a shock. The question is why. Ever rising tensions with South Korea, with which they have been at war since the end of the Korean War, requires an ace to make either partner stand out in this stand-off. This in itself is a very sad fact for Koreans, as this whole debacle has been a consequence of World War II, two superpowers’ partitioning, and unwillingness to compromise. The Korean peninsula disagreed with its own initial splitting after Japan’s capitulation, yet it was, and the rest is history. However, putting aside all personal issues people have towards the purported backwardness of North Korea, it is only fair that it wants to be the regional leader in this geopolitical environment. So that is how a nuclear bomb is seen now, as an ace in the pack.

During the Cold War, due to the inherent mistrust, the bomb was a deterrent weapon (at least it was eventually seen like that, after it was mistaken for a mass destruction weapon during the Cuban missile crisis). However, as more and more children got the new toy for Christmas (UK in ’52, France in ’60, even China in ’64), the bomb became a symbol of power, in the 19th century empire sense. This then prompted more countries to develop their own nuclear programmes, notably Israel, some with more US help then others, of course.

This spread and evolution caused the meaning of the warhead to change to a regional factor in relations. This has caused many of our current world issues, including the India Pakistan conflicts, Iran, the Iraq war, and then coming back to the Korean peninsula hostilities. This author supports any and all attempts, albeit slow, towards a reunification of the Koreas, though that is only a small problem in the long run. However, to combat ever-growing number of problems, a new factor needs to be brought in.

China. Its immense rise to power in the economic world should only be equalled in diplomatic terms, as it can begin to exert more influence. It has shown in the past that it is committed to nuclear non-proliferation by signing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, a treaty which, when in force, would ban every country from using nuclear weapons in any scenario. China has a policy which states it would never be the first country to fire its nuclear weapons, so it has them for a purely defensive purpose. This is why it can achieve a lot in the right direction, if its diplomats thought it beneficial towards China. For that to occur, it needs to work together more with the EU to get the ball rolling. The EU can give it the world stage it deserves, from which to take the USA off its high horse and reconsider its methods.

In fact, Russia is even more committed than USA or China, since it has signed and ratified the treaty. Hence, for all its perceptions in the media, it can boast a bigger devotion to the cause. It has also disposed of a much larger number of its arsenal than USA. Nevertheless, because of Russia’s autocratic governing style, its international role has declined to a shambles (China, on the other hand, does not profess to have a government which is democratic, and so its political role remains enigmatic, but potentially positive). All Russia wants is a friend in this world, but the media bullies are portraying it as a big bad bear. This is why Russia switched off its fuel taps, much like an upset child hides the parent’s keys. The EU can also help in this respect, by increasing its trade, and maybe even dangling a membership in its visors.

The only big remaining player is America (UK and France seem devoted to carrying on the nuclear tensions as they are, with the continuation of their nuclear defence systems). Yet, for all of their bravado speeches and public confirmations towards the removal of the weapons, USA has been continuing its hypocritical managing style. After the aforementioned talks which concluded yesterday, for example, USA said it wants North Korea as an equal partner, while at the same time reiterating that it has to take appropriate steps to show its commitment to denuclearisation. This author will take the positive view, and assume that the US does eventually want to get rid of all weapons, but it would only have that when it is the last to get rid of them. Such a Cold-war-remnant mistrust of others who keep theirs may be the biggest thing preventing progress. This is why if China was to take on a leading position, it can tackle the tough issues such as North Korea, as well as Iran and Israel.

To read George Vassilev’s other articles visit George Vassilev’s Politics On Toast blogThis article is (C) Politics on Toast
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4 thoughts on “North Korea: Bringing the nuclear issue to the 21st century

  1. Very relevant article — what does the author mean when he refers to Russia’s media perception? Is he purely referring to Russia’s negative reputation as he later references (‘all Russia wants is a friend’), or does Russia have a particular global reputation with regards to the nuclear issue?:

    “In fact, Russia is even more committed than USA or China, since it has signed and ratified the treaty. Hence, for all its perceptions in the media, it can boast a bigger devotion to the cause. ”


    Posted by Nicola Guttridge | August 2, 2011, 4:05 pm
    • Thank you for your comment, Miss Guttridge. What I meant by Russia’s negative reputation in the media is its perception as a lost superpower which is trying to recover its image, while still at the same time being quasi-communist. It is also still seen as very aggresive, for example with the war with Georgia. This would then apply to the view that it doesn’t want to get rid of its nuclear weapons, that is simply what I was saying. In fact, I was being genuine when I write all Russia wants is a friend, since it is perceived by the media as such, its trade relations have been reduced to dealing with none of the larger economies on a grand scale. This is to their advantage, as their ‘morality’ doesn’t get in the way of their dealing with Iran, but it alienates them from the EU, China and Japan.

      Posted by pragmaticgogo | August 5, 2011, 12:50 pm
  2. Interesting article, although I have to note that no super power will be the first to get rid of their nuclear arsenal. Aditionally, as long as there are nuclear facilities where uranium can be enriched no one can claim complete disarmament. I would say once we discoverd fusion and fission there is no coming back.

    I agree control is necessary and China will hopefully play a more prominant role.

    Posted by V | August 5, 2011, 12:28 am
  3. Mr V I agree that no super power in this current climate will get rid of their nuclear arsenal. What I am gesturing towards is an era where there are only a few weapons left, not in the current number of thousands, where it would be safer to deal with, and they can even be stored in one location, guarded by everyone, mind you, but still in one common place where the ‘threat’ from a country to make a nuclear attack on someone else would be abolished because of the very nature of their storage. Of course, anyone could then still make one and threaten to use it, but it wouldn’t be any of the old players who have shared possession of their arms.
    Maybe my head is up in the clouds.

    Posted by pragmaticgogo | August 5, 2011, 12:54 pm

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